Magazine article Real Estate Issues

Culture, Identity and Democracy in the Face of Modernization

Magazine article Real Estate Issues

Culture, Identity and Democracy in the Face of Modernization

Article excerpt

Editor's note: This article is excerpted from the presentation Francis Fukuyama delivered as part of the Clash of Cultures program at the 2006 CRE High Level Conference, which took place July 13-16 in Park City, Utah. Read more about the conference programming in this edition of Real Estate Issues (see page 9) and at

I OUGHT TO START WITH A BIT OF GOOD NEWS, given that if you open the newspaper this morning, it doesn't look like the world is in very good shape. But it does seem to me that--if you consider the world as a whole--a great deal of mankind is undergoing a very rapid and positive process of modernization.

India and China are the two most populist countries in the world. China's economy has grown more than 10 percent in the last calendar year and India's is up around 8 percent. They're really at the top of growth statistics for the world, and this is remarkable for countries that together have about 2.2 billion people. This process of growth over the past three decades has lifted several hundred million people out of poverty.

So for a fairly important and large part of mankind, the basic pattern is a very positive one of growth and development. Incidentally, this is what my book called The End of History and the Last Man is about--that this process of modernization is a unified one. When I wrote it, certain consistent things were happening; for example, the empowerment of women. One realization that typically occurs in a growing modern society is that it makes no sense to exclude 50 percent of the population from the labor force, so now we're seeing more women working outside the home in places like India, China and other parts of East Asia that have modernized.

Now, the big question has to do with politics. India has been a democracy since it became an independent country, but China is an authoritarian country and has been very successful as an authoritarian modernizer. Will China's growing wealth lead to a democratization of its political system? I don't know.

Generally speaking, democracies can happen at any level of development, but they tend to stick much better and consolidate when per capita gross domestic product reaches about $6,000. China isn't there yet; it's around $2,000 or $2,500 so it's got quite a way to go. But Japan, South Korea and Taiwan opened up their political systems when they hit that level; the same could happen in China simply because it's very hard to have good government over a long period of time without accountability.

That's basically what a democratic political system is all about. If the people in power are corrupt and mess up in a big way--poison a river or become embroiled in a scandal--there's a way to throw them out. China doesn't really have that kind of a system right now. So the question is: As people get more educated, as they own property, as they connect more to the outside world, will they demand to be able to participate in politics as well? As I said, I don't know the answer. China is not Taiwan and South Korea. It's a much bigger, more complex society. So we will simply have to see.

But the whole question of whether China democratizes begs a larger theoretical argument that, in a sense, I've been carrying on with Samuel Huntington, my former mentor at Harvard University and the author of several books. His two most recent are The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (Simon & Schuster, 1998) and Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity (Simon & Schuster, 2004), which I will refer to when we start talking about immigration.

Huntington is a good friend of mine, but we disagree about some very basic issues. One of the issues we disagree about is how central culture is to the development of modern institutions. I think he would say something like: Westernization and modernization are separate things and you can have modernization without having Western values. …

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